Episode 71 Steps For Helping Clients Manage Food Anxiety and Discover Food Freedom: Interview With Sarah Duda

Jul 13, 2022

What is food anxiety and what is its root cause? Do you struggle to remove food anxiety from your everyday nutrition? 

MEET Sarah Duda

I am Sarah and I am a certified Nutrition Coach who helps women manage their food anxiety. So many of us are faced with food anxiety in everyday situations. 

This food anxiety can come from social situations, diets that haven’t worked in the past, society, and food allergies/sensitivities. 

The truth is there is no “one size fits all” in nutrition. I work as your personal hype girl as I guide you on your journey. The goal is for you to feel

comfortable managing your food anxiety and feel at peace in finding your food freedom. 

Find out more at Loving Nutritiously and connect with Sara on Facebook and Instagram

Download Sara’s FREE guide to Eating Seasonally here!


  • What is food anxiety? 2:40
  • Strategies for overcoming food anxiety 6:50
  • Setting Nutritional Goals 9:22
  • What is Food Freedom? 17:47

What Is Food Anxiety?

  • Understanding how food anxiety is different in every person
  • How to find healthy food swaps
  • Changing your mindset on the food you eat

Strategies For Overcoming Food Anxiety

  • How to create a personalized meal plan
  • Finding wins in your eating habits on a consistent basis
  • Coping with having setbacks on your healthy nutrition journey
  • Why a food journal is helpful for healthy eating

Setting Nutritional Goals

  • How to manage your goals
  • Favorite food swap recommendations
  • Dealing with food allergies
  • Meal planning strategy

What Is Food Freedom?

  • Learning to enjoy eating in a social environment
  • Resetting your eating habits after indulging without the guilt
  • How to recognize eating disorders


Connect With Me

Instagram @holisticcounselingpodcast


Join the private Facebook group

Sign up for my free email course: www.holisticcounselingpodcast.com

Rate, review, and subscribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.

Resources Mentioned And Useful Links:

-Find out more at Loving Nutritiously and connect with Sara on Facebook and Instagram

-Download Sara’s FREE guide to Eating Seasonally here!


Episode 71 Sarah Duda

Chris McDonald: Welcome to the holistic counseling podcast, where you discover diverse wellness modalities, advice on growing your integrative practice and grow confidence in being your unique self. I'm your host, Chris McDonald. I'm so glad you're here for the journey.

Chris McDonald: Welcome to today's episode of the holistic counseling podcast. I'm your host. Once again, Chris McDonald. Thanks for tuning in today. I know you have a lot of choices in podcasts and I so appreciate you being here. I have a couple questions for you today. Do you experience anxiety around food? Do you struggle with the constant nagging in the back of your head, wondering how to eat more healthy today's guest helps people feel comfortable managing food, anxiety, and feel at peace in finding food freedom.

Chris McDonald: Sarah Duda is a certified nutrition coach who helps women manage their food anxiety around everyday situations. Like when you're out to eat and you don't know what to order or when you're at the grocery store and don't know what product to buy, or if you need someone to tell you, it's okay to indulge this food, anxiety can come from social situations, diets that haven't worked in the past society.

Chris McDonald: Or food allergies, sensitivities. She believes there's no one size fits all nutrition and personalizes goals to each person. Welcome to the podcast, Sarah.

Sarah Duda: Hey, thanks so much for having me. I'm really excited to be here.

Chris McDonald: Can you tell my listeners a little bit more about yourself and your


Sarah Duda: Yeah, absolutely.

Sarah Duda: When I was a child, I was diagnosed with a peanut tree, coconut allergy. And back then there. No real support for people that had food allergies. I remember growing up the fear even as like a seven year old of not knowing if someone had dipped a knife into the peanut butter before to bring into the jelly, to make sandwiches or being at a party and not knowing about cross contamination, even back then and having this fear of what.

Sarah Duda: Safe to eat. And as I grew up, I kind of learned how to manage it more throughout college and as an adult, but I studied family services in college and received my bachelor's degree. And my nutrition journey started with meal planning and I've meal plan for about. Five years now and went back to school and got certified as a certified functional nutrition and wellness health coach.

Sarah Duda: And that's great. Just kind felt this need to help other women who have dealt with any kind of food, anxiety and everyday life. So, can you

Chris McDonald: share more about how do you define food, anxiety? What have you noticed with clients that you've worked with?

Sarah Duda: How does that come out? So food anxiety, I've had a few clients, food anxiety is different in every person, my most recent client, and I won't use her name for.

Sarah Duda: Privacy reasons. She just had this fear of what was okay to eat. Society puts this image on women that were supposed to look a certain way and our clothes are supposed to hang a certain way and she wasn't comfortable in her skin. So we worked together on finding what I call healthy food swaps. And we switched things from like making your own popsicles versus eating ice cream or.

Sarah Duda: Protein bites versus eating like a handful of chocolate chip cookies so that you have a more nutritious snack. And then you don't have to feel this fear or this food guilt around eating. I dunno, like 13 cookies or whatever it is that you might open just a to sleep and sit there and eat them all. So finding.

Sarah Duda: Flops helped her to realize that one it's okay to indulge. And two, you don't have to indulge in something that's full of fat and zero calorie, like empty calories and have this fear around you. That food is bad for you. I think

Chris McDonald: that's a big message that we get. And I hear that from people. I don't know if you hear that as a nutritionist as well that, oh, I was quote unquote, I was bad today.

Chris McDonald: Or today that I don't know, we call that like judgment, very judgey towards ourselves. Or I was good today. I was really good this week and I think that just sets us up for when we're bad. We're feel like we're bad as a person, as an identity. And we might leave more anxiety, maybe depression

Sarah Duda: too. I find a lot time, people will call it a cute meal and yes, I personally don't like that term only because, oh, okay.

Sarah Duda: Then we put this association on. If I just have one sheet, it will be fine. Or if I just have this sheet, it will be fine. And then it becomes this. Spiral and it becomes, oh, I'm just gonna have one more piece of this. And one more piece of that. And then you end up what people call binge eating and you end up eating more than you had set up to do versus, you know, it's fine.

Sarah Duda: If you are creating a chocolate chip cookie, go get yourself a chocolate chip cookie. Like it's not gonna ruin everything that you're doing to pick up from where you left off. There's no like, oh, it was bad Thursday. And then I'll wait until Monday. Just pick it back up on Friday. Like it's not this horrible way down situation.

Sarah Duda: That again, that society puts on us as women.

Chris McDonald: It's almost like that black and white thinking, isn't it it's good, bad that I can't have this. Or I can only have this as a cheat meal or I gotta restrict myself. And I think that that goes against yeah, psychology. Right. With once we say we are not gonna allow ourselves that chocolate chip cookie or ice cream, then what do we want?

Chris McDonald: We want just that don't we, but I like how you said the, the healthy swaps. Cause I think that's what a lot of people struggle with is like, oh, well I can't have this, so I don't even know what else to have that confusion

Sarah Duda: part. Yeah. Yeah. So the big one right now, people I get questions a lot about is ice cream.

Sarah Duda: Cuz I feel like ice cream is such a summer treat and it's fine. And I'm not saying like don't indulge yourself in a bowl of ice cream, if that's what you have a craving for. But. Different healthier swaps that you can swap for if you want ice cream every day, a big one that I always recommend to people is frozen banana pops.

Sarah Duda: And it's literally, you just put a banana on a Popsicle stick and you dip it in some chocolate and you put it in your freezer and then. You kind of get the sensation of ice cream because bananas are soft as they do frost. And then you also get some chocolate and who doesn't like chocolate on top

Chris McDonald: of things.

Chris McDonald: I'm taking, I'm taking notes for this. No, I think that's great. Cause then you still feel that mild feel of that and, and getting a little chocolate too. Yeah.

Sarah Duda: I always, I always recommend like a good dark chocolate to dip it in because then you get more antioxidants versus like a milk chocolate, which is more dairy.

Chris McDonald: Absolutely. So what are some other strategies you use to help people with food anxiety?

Sarah Duda: So our first meeting I always have with clients is like an intake and we go over anything, health and medical that you feel willing to share and personal choices and foods that you like and foods that you don't like.

Sarah Duda: Ultimately, you get a personalized meal plan every week to help. And we talk about like, if you're eating, what's called a black and white diet, which is like meat and potatoes or meat and starches, and like no veggies. We pick something small that needs to be worked on. And we go from there. Can I call it, I am a rockstar at, and we work on three things every week and then three things that you rocked at and that you should feel proud about yourself.

Sarah Duda: Of.

Chris McDonald: I love that. That's a really encouraging people too, and the things are doing

Sarah Duda: well. Yeah. And then at the end of our time together, whether it's four weeks. Eight weeks, 12 weeks, six months, whatever our period of time is together. You get a list of everything that you have rocked at during your journey.

Sarah Duda: Great reinforcement. And then you can see, like, if you feel like you're having a bad week, you feel like you just, aren't doing a good job. You can pull out your list and be like, you know what I remember when I, I accomplished this and I was having a really hard time. And I know that even though, like right now is really hard, That I can continue on this journey and continue doing that.

Sarah Duda: I'm stronger than I think I am. As

Chris McDonald: part of your process, do you have people like track what they're eating or how does that work for you?

Sarah Duda: Every person is different. I do personally, like in the beginning of our journey together to keep a food journal and it's not so much of a, to make you feel guilty about what you are eating.

Sarah Duda: It's more of, so I can see. What nutrients you're lacking in. So for example, if you are going from that black and white. To incorporating vegetables. I just wanna see what kind of different veggies you're eating or what time you notice that the veggies struggle hits or what time you're craving, whatever you crave chocolate.

Sarah Duda: Or I have a client that eats a lot of nuts, which is great, but nuts have a lot of calories. And so finding. Versus eating like a full cup of nuts, which is crazy anyways. So eating them in smaller portions and switching them for healthier, more fat filling nuts.

Chris McDonald: So what, what do you do if you have clients that are just like, I'm just too anxious to eat things and I don't know what to do.

Chris McDonald: Do you just have this small goals? It sounds like you start off with a lot of small goals for things


Sarah Duda: yeah. So we do three a week. Manageable. I feel like for most people, when you're making a switch in your nutritious life and you're switching from like this anxiety of eating and anxiety of what is safe and the anxiety of what you should put in your body and what not having three goals feels manageable.

Sarah Duda: If three seems like too many for people, then we aim for like one. The larger goal. And from there we kind of break it down. I always call it. The large goal is like the umbrella and the little goals are like the written drops falling. Ooh, very cool. So like if your large, if your large goal is. To be able to eat at a party without having to worry about the fear of gaining weight.

Sarah Duda: We work on like the little drops of like what you couldn't do instead, like, even before you go bringing something with you, or if it's like pot style, bringing a dish that you know, that you can eat. And still have it offered to other people.

Chris McDonald: Oh, I think that's great. So what are some other favorite food swaps?

Chris McDonald: You have so many

Sarah Duda: think about this. Yeah. so, because I have a, so I have a peanut tri coconut sunflower seed, pumpkin seed. How do you manage flex seed? She seed allergy. Yeah, the seeds I got diagnosed with in January. The peanut tree, Nu coconut I've had, since I was six weeks old, it's been a lot of change in our household.

Sarah Duda: Like I went from eating sunflower butter. I can't even have sunflower butter anymore because it has sunflower seed in it. So it's been a lot of like research and finding swaps. But I always tell people if they have food allergies, if they're worried about what is in it, or they're worried about the cross-contamination to call the company, because you can't always go off of the label.

Sarah Duda: True. If they're really worried about it to call the company, I would say nine out of 10 times, I've had much luck calling a company and asking about a cross contamination. I've only had a couple companies go well, didn't you read the label? It's like, thanks. I did, but thank you. I could, yeah, I could die a lot of good swaps for some grape are another good one on hot days, as far as like a cookie, which I get a lot of people ask me about that one.

Sarah Duda: Also, if you take an apple and you slice it and circular form, and then. Spread some peanut butter, no Nu butter on it and put mini chocolate chips. You kind of get that same, like new bite into it that like crunch snap from a cookie. And then the creaminess of the butter gives you like that. Softness that you would get from a cookie and the chocolate chips kind of add like the chocolate chip to it.

Sarah Duda: And then we do tacos a lot in our house and it's just, it's just swaps, like switching the tortilla to like a lettuce wrap, which is. Easy cuz you can still fill all your toppings in your meat or your tofu or whatever your lifestyle is like and then your cheese and your salsa and you just kind of fold it up and eat it like a taco, some other ones you can swap potatoes with cauliflower to like make mashed potatoes and still getting veggies.

Sarah Duda: I always tell parents that have picky eat.

Chris McDonald: I thought that wouldn't be good, but actually the cauliflower as mashed potatoes was excellent. I just tried that like a couple months ago, so good.

Sarah Duda: Yeah. Yeah. Another one. I always tell parents if they have picky eaters, when they make macaroni and cheese to add in some period butternut squash to the cheese.

Sarah Duda: For the macaroni cheese, cause then it's a hidden veggie and it's a healthier carb, but then your kids get the vitamins from the, from the butter S splash. Or if you have picky husbands, I do it for my husband. That's true. there you go.

Chris McDonald: That's funny. So how can listeners make food planning easier? Cause I think that's the difficult part with therapists being, having such busy schedules and it can be difficult with our hours that we might.

Chris McDonald: Alternative hours and other people. And, and that can be hard to figure out, oh my gosh, how am I gonna, what am I having tonight for dinner? I don't know. That's

Sarah Duda: where I suggest doing some sort of meal planning. I always have clients sit down with the families or their spouses and make a list of 20 things that you enjoy eating, whether it's like tacos or meatloaf.

Sarah Duda: Spaghetti. And then I do, I tell 'em make five entrees and then 10 sides and then five. Snack, like throw it on a plate and if they want to do like three, I don't even wanna call them desserts cuz they're not like three enjoyable is what we call them in my program. Better reframe. Yeah. Instead of desserts.

Sarah Duda: Cause I feel like people also put this negative connotation of like true. I can't have dessert because I didn't eat well estate. So we called them enjoyable. And that way, when you go to. Plan for your grocery list. You have this list already of things that your family enjoys, and it makes it a little bit easier on your week and it makes it easier on your brain.

Sarah Duda: Another thing to help is doing, instead of like doing a, I think when people think of meal prep, they think of like pre-made breakfast, pre-made lunch and pre-made dinner. And not everyone has time for that in their schedule. So I always say, if you can ingredient prep, it'll make it easier on your week as well.

Sarah Duda: So like spending, I don't know, whatever day is your down day, I like to do it on Sunday, spending your Sunday, blocking out like a chunk of time, about an hour. So, and shopping all of your fruits and veggies for the. Making any kind of grains or make your pasta ahead of time and just toss it in some olive oil after it's done cooking.

Sarah Duda: So it doesn't stick together. And if you can, premake your proteins for like the next three days, don't pull all of your proteins out of your freezer at once only because if you pull out, let's say a chicken breast on Monday. Thursday and you haven't used it yet. Chances are, it's probably not good anymore because it only has a certain amount of days that it's good.

Sarah Duda: Once it's been pulled out of the freezer. And then you have to worry about this, this, this chicken gonna make me sick. So I would say if you're gonna like pull out Sunday, you should pull out Sunday and have it last due to Wednesday and then pull out Wednesday and have last due to Saturday.

Chris McDonald: I love doing that to have.

Chris McDonald: On Sunday to cook, like a bunch of protein too. So you're ready for the next few days. And, and sometimes too, since we do have flexible schedule, sometimes during the work day I work from home. Now I can just go, let me just chop this for dinner at three o'clock and then go back to work, which is awesome.

Chris McDonald: If your work

Sarah Duda: for home. Yeah. Another big one is crack Pott meals or using your instant pot. If you have a pattern, instant pot, just kind of tossing all of your main pieces in the crop pot. And then when you come home, you. No roast a pan of veggies or, and I don't call it cheating or pulling one of those bags of freezer, vegetables out in ING.

Sarah Duda: One of those sea bags, amen to that. I'm all about working is smarter, not harder when it comes to spending time in the

Chris McDonald: kitchen. And I think just finding what shortcuts work for you and your lifestyle. Yes. Yeah. So I know, I know you promote that a lot of the individualized too, and everybody's different.

Sarah Duda: Yeah. That's why I really stress on the there's no one size fits all in nutrition. Just. I feel like there's so many meal plans out there that people are like, oh, I could try this. And it, they end up gaining weight from it. And they're like, what am I doing wrong? Like, I'm following this nutrition plan. And it's because it's not designed for them.

Sarah Duda: It's designed for someone

Chris McDonald: else. So, what do you call? I know you mentioned food freedom. So what is food freedom and how do you help clients achieve that? For

Sarah Duda: my last couple of clients, they really struggled with like the idea of eating out and overeating. And so we've gotten to the point, my last one did a 12 week program when we've gotten to the point that she doesn't fear food anymore, which is amazing.

Sarah Duda: And then she doesn't feel like when she goes out to. But she's cheating on herself for eating like an extra car at dinner or so like to me and to my clients food freedom. Is that feeling that you get where you don't feel guilty anymore? Oh, I like that. Where you can feel like you can go out to a party, you know, and you can eat without having to have this like fear behind you of I'm gonna have to work out for X amount of minutes tomorrow to burn off what I eat yesterday.

Sarah Duda: Like none of them there's none of that. Like, it should be about like enjoying the food that you're eating, enjoying the situation, enjoying the company. And then just going back to like your regular life the next day, like not penalizing yourself for. Having a good time, like for enjoying yourself.

Chris McDonald: Right.

Chris McDonald: And I think that that helps with some healthy eating habits. Cause I know sometimes it can cross over, into more disordered eating. And what do you do if you have a, a client that seems to be struggling with their food anxiety, and you've used these strategies and they're not working.

Sarah Duda: So I usually suggest just because it's not my scope of practice.

Sarah Duda: I find out I know what state I live in. So I reach out to my network of other nutrition coaches. That are all over. The United States, we have some in Canada, some in Mexico and a few in Europe. Most of my clients are in the us. I've only had one Canadian client and I reach out to them and ask if they have any connections with different more specialized like therapy or like an allergist to see, or any kind of area.

Sarah Duda: My client might be struggling. And, and I've only had one situation where I had to refer out to someone.

Chris McDonald: So I just recognizing that maybe this is more than I can handle and yeah.

Sarah Duda: The importance of that. Yeah. A lot of people, I only had one person ask me, like, what do I do in this situation? And I'm like, you know, like, unfortunately that's not in my.

Sarah Duda: Scope of practice, but I would be happy to refer you to someone who knows more about this. Yeah, for sure. That's totally fine. I'm like, perfect.

Chris McDonald: Exactly. So just recognizing that some people, if they're more in the disordered thinking and have the eating disorders, that that might be more difficult. Cause I know there's some nutritionist that specialize in eating disorders, right?

Sarah Duda: Yeah. Yeah. I have a few friends in the Chicago land area. That are registered dieticians in eating disorders. And so I have a small network there and then a small network in California

Chris McDonald: also. Great. So what's a takeaway you could share that could help listeners that are just starting maybe to move away from food

Sarah Duda: anxiety.

Sarah Duda: My biggest suggestion is to be kind to yourself and I know it. Silly, but if you are hard on yourself, then you're more likely to struggle. And then you spiral down this never ending cycle of binging or eating out of control, and then you get guilty. And so if you feel like you've fallen off the wagon or you feel like you're struggling, just remember to be kind to yourself because you are in fact, a human and we all make mistakes and it's gonna be.

Sarah Duda: Just take it one day at a time.

Chris McDonald: Excellent. I know you mentioned you have a gift for listeners. Can you share that

Sarah Duda: too? Yeah. So I have a It's a eating seasonally guide and it has January through December of what is in season. Most of the time when you go to your grocery store and you see items that are relatively cheaper than the other items, those are usually your in season produce.

Sarah Duda: You also will find them like at farmer's markets in the summertime. So you can just kinda hang it up on your refrigerator or you keep your grocery list and then, you know, what might help your budget as well.

Chris McDonald: And we can provide a link in our show notes so that listeners can access that. So what's the best way for listeners to find you learn more about you.

Sarah Duda: So you can find me either on Instagram at loving, nutritious, you can find me on Facebook in groups. I have a loving, nutritious community, or you can find me on my website, which is loving, nutritious.com. L O V I N G N U T R I T I O U. L y.com. And

Chris McDonald: again, we'll put the, all those links in the show notes, but I wanna thank you for coming on the podcast, Sarah.

Chris McDonald: Yeah. Thank you

Sarah Duda: so much for having me

Chris McDonald: and listeners. Don't forget to join us for another episode next Wednesday. Did you love this episode, please remember to rate and review to help us continue to grow this podcast community. This is Chris. McDonald's sending each one of you much light in love till next time.

Chris McDonald: Take care. Thank you for listening and supporting the holistic counseling podcast. If you're loving this podcast, please share with your colleagues so we can continue to grow our holistic community. Also, are you ready to take the next step to create the integrative counseling practice? I invite you to sign up for my free nine part email course becoming a holistic counselor in this course, you'll explore different holistic strategies, how to develop.

Chris McDonald: Skills as a holistic counselor and how to manifest your dream practice, go to www.holisticcounselingpodcast.com. Scroll down and enter your name and email address today. This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regards to the subject matter covered. It is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or any other professional information.

Chris McDonald: If you want a professional, you should find one.

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